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Remember not to get old

AHS graduation speeches

Amy Chelariu, president of the AHS Student Council, delivered these remarks at the school's commencement.

Hi everyone, and congratulations to the class of 2024!

It's impossible to sum up four years of a person's life in a few-minute speech, and it's even harder to sum up 400 people's lives and do it without crying, but I’ll do my best.

High school is over, and there’s a lot to take with us, both good and bad, but at the end of the day, we’re mainly going to carry the things we learned about each other. 

You're not going to remember your homework you turned in late or the test you studied all night for. You’re not going to remember the games you lost or why you broke down in the bathroom that one time. Well, maybe you will.

But more important, you’ll remember the moments you spent with friends. The times you laughed until your stomach hurt and felt loved by those around you. When you were challenged but felt accomplished. I know I’ll remember waves and smiles in the halls and good luck wishes before meets. I’ll remember acts of kindness and honesty. I’ll remember the senior-year mindset of openness and friendliness helped us form bonds we otherwise wouldn’t have before this year.  

When I asked my coworker Matthew what advice I should give to my class during graduation, he said, “Don’t get old,” with the typical pessimism of a working millennial. Now I’m choosing not to interpret that in a “ my-back-hurts-all-the-time” way, but I’ll take his advice. I think we all should, because young people like ourselves take risks, make new friends and stay connected. There's a moment when being a “senior” actually hits, and the way you look at the year changes. You race to remember the good times and try to squeeze in as many more as you can before summer. You start looking back instead of just forward and, suddenly four years of highschool have gone by.

Soon we’ll be off in different towns, states, countries and even across the pond in just a few months. We’ll remember each other as high school friends. We’ll be “adults”, but to paraphrase Matthew, we shouldn’t let that stop us from living like we’re young. So when you all go off to college or careers or your own lives, remember to not get old. Continue to challenge yourselves. Take advantage of the opportunities life throws at you and don't be scared to put yourself out there.

This year I’ve noticed a sense of easy camaraderie between our class that didn't seem so easy until just a few months ago. People who have known each other for most of their lives are just now speaking for the first time. Knowing we’re going to move away soon gives seniors the confidence to not care what people think about them anymore.

But what stopped us before? And why would you let it stop you now?

We couldn’t have predicted what our experience would be like between freshman year and walking on this stage today. We had no idea about the friendships we’d form and the pride we’d have in ourselves as we eventually leave. And we’ll feel the same way during every major life change. So treat every one of those life changes like this year: Be kind, be open and most of all be yourself.

To the Class of 2024: I’m so deeply proud of each and everyone of your accomplishments, hard work and character. We made it. And I can’t wait to see what we’ll do next.  

This viewpoint was published Sunday, June 2, 2024.

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